Stay at the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel

Mountain and marine vistas
from Pan Pacific Vancouver.

Vancouver's Inner Harbour skyline.

Seattle and Vancouver often get billed as two peas in a pod, but anyone curious about urban textures in the Pacific Northwest would do well to visit both.

For one thing they muddle our national stereotypes. We may expect Vancouver to reflect the stodgy respectability which Americans generally ascribe to CanadaSeattle, on the other hand, gets itself associated with all manner of cutting edge symbolism, from Boeing jumbo jets to the entrepreneurial Bill Gates—and, of course, the ubiquitous Starbucks, presumably responsible for the caffeine jolts which keep it all humming.

But in fact it's the blazing skyline of Vancouver, an orgy of post-modern architecture that bids to overwhelm the first-time visitor.  The Inner Harbour, a lively thoroughfare of cruise liners, cargo ships, ferry boats, and sea planes radiates energy outward and upward into the adjoining canyons of glass and steel. 

Pan Pacific Vancouver pool deck.

By way of comparison Hong Kong springs to mind, a visual reinforcement of the idea that economic boom on Canada's Pacific Rim flows both from trade with the Far East and the influx of Asian immigrants that has reshaped Vancouver over recent decades.

By contrast downtown Seattle retains much of its past, a rugged hill town mounted brick by brick.  Even the Space Needle and monorail — futuristic forty years ago — today seem oddly antique.  The harbor owes much of its charm to rickety Pike Street Market, cheerful stalls purveying fresh fish, apples and blueberry jams.

Café Pacifica at PP Vancouver.

Paradoxically, the face of "progressive" Seattle reassures us with its perdurability. Meanwhile Vancouver occupies itself with preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, emblematic of the city's entry onto a world stage.

On a recent trip to Seattle and Vancouver I stayed at two superb hotels, a pair of links in the Pan Pacific chain. I can recommend both, not only for their quality of accommodation and service — which are first-rate — but also for how well they reinforce the character of their respective cities.

Pan Pacific Vancouver business suite.

Pan Pacific Vancouver, mounted boldly astride the Inner Harbour, throbs with the lifeblood of an international port.  This large convention hotel (23 stories; 504 rooms) shares Canada Place with the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre as well as the city's cruise ship terminal.

Five-star accommodations offer panoramic views of the city, harbour, and nearby Coastal Mountains.  The business and entertainment centers of Vancouver are merely a few steps away, as is the waterfront promenade which winds through the marina to nearby Stanley Park.

Pan Pacific Vancouver personifies the vigor of the city itself.  High in a harbour-view room, one awakes each morning to the drone of seaplanes rising off to appointments in the far reaches of British Columbia.  Meanwhile the wistful horns of cruise ships announce arrival or departure for the Alaskan fjords.

Stanley Park, left, at the entrance to the Inner Harbour.

City view from Stanley Park.

Vancouver's Gastown District.

Vancouver is a great walking town.  Take a half day from Pan Pacific to cover the promenade into Stanley Park, skirt the English Bay residential neighborhoods, and allow for a hearty lunch on Granville Island, the market district accessible by bridge or ferry. 

Just a five minute stroll from the hotel lies the restored Gastown District with its famed Steam Clock and still more shops and restaurants.

Like to wander further a field?  The SeaBus ferry to mountainous North Vancouver and SkyTrain service into the suburban greenery leaves from the Waterfront Station at the doorstep of Pan Pacific.

Seattle is less than an hour from Vancouver by air, about three hours by highway or car ferry along Puget Sound.  Proximity to the sea and evergreen mountains creates obvious similarities between the two cities.

Yet, the urban planners of Seattle apparently have no wish to emulate the dense structural web of Vancouver. Seattle's scattering of high-rises amounts to a brief nod in the direction of post-modern slick. Beyond its harbor Seattle ambles away over hillsides covered with apartment buildings into the sprawling suburbs.

Click this link for Vancouver Tours and Tickets.

Pan Pacific Seattle.

The Pan Pacific Seattle lobby.

A suite at the Pan Pacific Seattle.

Pan Pacific Seattle reflects this casual ambiance of the "Emerald City".  At one-third the size (160 rooms) of big sister in Vancouver, PP Seattle emphasizes personalized concierge service and attention to detail.  Combining warm woods and subtle pastel colorations with ultra modern appointments (32" plasma TVs, handmade Hypnos beds, and configurable work space) the design firm of Hirsh Bedner has created a luxurious, boutique-like feel in a hotel suited to both the tourist and business traveler.

The hotel's location — several blocks away from harbor and city center in the trendy South Lake Union area — further enhances an atmosphere of quiet intimacy.  Indeed PP Seattle is part of a modular three condominium tower complex, a landscaped plaza which includes a Whole Foods Market, bank, spa, fitness center, Neapolitan pizzeria, pharmacy, and, of course, a Starbucks coffee shop.

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It's a brief stroll to the Space Needle, a popular entertainment center in Seattle since the World's Fair of 1962.  Numerous festivals are held on the park grounds each year; permanent attractions including museums for children, science fiction and rock music aficionados, a planetarium, concert halls, and a sports arena.

Click the Space Needle for fine dining.

Albeit a half mile removed from downtown, Pan Pacific is still easy walking distance from the harbor-side attractions which highlight Seattle's urban charm.  Foremost among these is the venerable Pike Street Market, a blocks-long bazaar featuring the bounty of Washington State — marvelous fruits and vegetables, wines, cheeses, salmon, and a multitude of sea food.  The Market remains too a colorful parade of humanity — musicians, jugglers, and the swarm of visitors who invade it each weekend.

A good afternoon walk can begin at Pioneer Square, the historic district of pubs and galleries at the south end of the downtown waterfront, continue to the newly expanded Seattle Art Museum, then on past the ferry terminal, where passengers embark for communities across Puget Sound.

Pike Street Market.

North beyond Pike Street Market are a number of portside attractions, including the superb Seattle Aquarium and Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center.  Of course many seafood restaurants and shops line these shores of Elliott Bay, and still a bit further on looms the Olympic Sculpture Park, a nine acre venue featuring works by Alexander Calder, Richard Serra, and others in an open air setting which provides exhilarating views of downtown Seattle, the Olympic Mountains, and Puget Sound.

Finally, don't be intimidated by the prospects of wintry travel either to Seattle or Vancouver.  Although the November-March period may be rainy, temperatures can be quite mild and the sea air invigorating.  Special weekend rates, even at high end hotels like Pan Pacific, are often surprisingly affordable.

For further information and online reservations at all Pan Pacific hotels, visit   In the US and Canada, call toll-free 1-800-327-8585 or call the hotels directly at 604-662-8111 (Vancouver) or 206-264-8111 (Seattle).

Feature by Jerry Nemanic, Jetsetters Magazine Editor; photos by Donna Nemanic and Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts.